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Mill rebuild gets a boost

Rogue Credit Union began a fundraising effort this week to bolster the $2.5 million rebuild of Butte Creek Mill, which burned down in a 2015 Christmas Day fire.

Rogue Credit Union began taking donations Monday, and it plans to match up to $5,000 in contributions, which would add $10,000 to the project.

Steady progress on the project was obvious along Royal Avenue in Eagle Point on Wednesday morning as crews from Adroit Construction worked to finish construction on the main structure and install siding. Next up is the roof, which will complete phase one and allow subcontractors to move in for interior work.

Mike Braaten, project superintendent for Adroit, said community interest is obvious from all the people who drive or walk past the project site regularly to monitor the rebuild effort.

The mill, built in the 1870s, has long been a regional draw for grocery shoppers, school field trips, tourists and history buffs interested in seeing the last water-powered, commercially operating grist mill west of the Mississippi.

“We are on schedule,” Braaten said. “We’ll begin roofing within probably the next week or two. Our goal is to get it dry, get it weather-tight, by mid-February.”

Braaten added it would be heartwarming to see the mill open again.

“It’s been really amazing they were able to salvage what they did to be able to bring it back,” he said. “It means a lot to a lot of people, obviously, just by the number of small donations and listening to all the locals talk about it, and all the stories they tell about coming here. It’s pretty amazing.”

Gene Pelham, president and CEO of Rogue Credit Union, said he can relate to the community’s love for the old mill. Pelham grew up in and around Eagle Point and has fond memories of living across the creek from the old mill.

“It was such a special thing being there and watching the water flow through. I would just sit there at times watching the mill and thinking about that whole process,” Pelham said.

“It was so troubling after the fire — knowing it was such an icon of the community for so long — to see it go away in the fire.”

Pelham said resurrecting the mill was important to the region given its historical significance.

“Eagle Point is a special place to a lot of people, and it’s a special place for me and for the credit union. One of our long-term board members was a big part of that community for years, and we have our branch there,” he said.

“We wanted to do what we could to ... help it rise from the ashes and to once again be that iconic connecting point for Eagle Point and the rest of Southern Oregon.”

Pelham said the matching funds program through Rogue Federal was “a powerful opportunity” for the community to double its donations and help raise the remaining $500,000 needed for rebuilding.

“Any time we can give the citizens an opportunity to participate in something like this, it becomes powerful,” Pelham said. “We know the big money comes from the large donors, which is wonderful, but the heart of a project like this comes from everybody who lives in the community and those who really love the old mill. This way everybody can help make a difference.”

Donations can be made during January at any RCU branch.

For more information about the project, see https://buttecreekmill.com/

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

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